Horrible, Most Horrible

boo.jpg Not to put too fine a point on it, but I think Stephen King isn’t a lot better than one of his ghastly creations. And I mean that in the most good-natured sort of, “You frighten me enough that you might be the devil,” sort of way. On the principle of keeping my enemies closer, we grabbed our season tickets for City Arts & Lectures and headed out to Herbst Auditorium on Monday. It was the eve of All Hallow’s Eve and they’d brought him out to hawk his latest book, Lisey’s Story. The king of horror. Speaking on Halloween. Get it? I didn’t. Same way I didn’t notice that I was wearing a bright orange sweatshirt. I’m just not very Halloween-aware which might explain why I can’t stand horror.

Here’s my beef with Mr. King. (I like calling him that because, taken out of context, I might be referring to Don King or Larry King and, in my imagination, they are the new Three Stooges except that all of them are assholes and two of them are boring. But it’s still funny when they fall down.) I think everyone is responsible for what they put out into the world and what Mr. King puts out is terrifying and gruesome.

I can feel the ACLU creeping onto my back porch like a scary clown. I’m not saying you can legislate it – pipe down – but I still think, like chewing with your mouth closed and wearing deodorant and not shouting obscenities on the R train, that it should be part of the How to Be a Decent Human Being in a Crowded World That Has Enough Problems As It Is training course. If you put horror and fear and all the bile of your imagination out into the world, you’re no better than a corporation that dumps its sewage into the river. Yeah, sure, there are going to be kids downriver who think that radioactive turtles and fish that can speak Russian and have one and a half legs are cool, but that doesn’t make it OK. Because there’s an audience for it doesn’t make it all right. Letting the market drive every damn thing is what’s getting intelligent design into the schools. Those kids should be protected from themselves: cut back on licking lead and watch more PBS and no encouragement to think that there are things out to get them in the night.

I don’t buy that personal choice and responsibility fall only on the consumer and not on the producer. Producers of horror (both for entertainment and for access to oil) are implicitly endorsing a society in which horror is accepted, and I can’t get behind that, no matter what a skilled writer or good guy the producer might be. In this country, he has an undeniable right to write whatever violent stories he sees fit. Sure. But with every right comes a responsibility, whether you can legislate it or not, and Stephen King is responsible for contributing to the level of violence and unpleasantness in the world and for that I find it hard to forgive him. Everyone has a right to their own bowl and they can pick whatever f’d up cherries they want to put in it. I just wish people like Stephen King produced fewer f’d up cherries for people to sort through.

I was thinking about making this point during the Q&A – in spite of my revulsion, I am curious to hear his side of it if he has one – but it turns out that Mr. King is exceedingly dull. He’s like that boring uncle who tells long stories full of irrelevant details and steps on his own jokes but still thinks he’s a riot because someone once told him at an office party that he was a real entertainer. This is somewhat comforting, since it proves he’s not the devil. We left half an hour into it. I would have stayed for the devil. I hear he’s entertaining.

Categories: News, Nuisance, Miscellany


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